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The Rise of Progressive Internationalism?


Derek Robertson has a story in Politico which argues that Bernie Sanders is on the leading edge of Democratic foreign policy. I think it’s probably correct, and it quotes me, so you should read it. A sample:

[Jake] Sullivan isn’t alone in his judgment. Van Jackson, a foreign policy expert and adviser to the Pentagon during the Obama administration, described Sanders’ global-minded makeover: “I’m a progressive but couldn’t bring myself to vote for Sanders in 2016 because I thought he wasn’t serious about national security. He was basically silent on it. … Not only does Sanders now seem to take national security seriously—he’s literally the only politician accurately diagnosing the threat landscape America faces,” he wrote in an email.

Strong words in favor of a politician Clinton described as having a “fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to do … patient diplomacy.” But the authority and progressive credibility Sanders brings to his vision of a Democratic foreign policy have put him in a position to which he’s not accustomed, building a rare and tentative consensus between the progressive and the “establishment” spheres. If Democrats hope to challenge Trump’s particular brand of direct, transactional, easy-to-follow world politics in 2020, Sanders’ grand unified theory might prove their best tool with which to do it.

I do have two issues with the piece. First, as others have pointed out, it doesn’t quote any women. Second, it mistakenly argues that the Sanders campaign hired a permanent foreign-policy advisor after Sean and I leaned on them. That’s incorrect. The hire was in the works before we strongly suggested that it would be a good idea to create some infrastructural capacity on international affairs.

Robertson isn’t the only one who sees good things happening on the progressive foreign-policy front. In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart offers both praise and some concern. With respect to the latter:

Even in democratic countries, choosing America’s allies can be tricky. When I asked Sanders whom he imagined partnering with in this global progressive movement, his first answer was British Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn. But although Corbyn shares many of Sanders’s economic views, he has expressed sympathy for authoritarian movements like Hamas and Hezbollah and authoritarian regimes like those in Cuba and Venezuela. It’s a reminder that leftists abroad may define progressivism in ways that may—or should—make American progressives uncomfortable.

I agree that there’s an interesting tension here, insofar as Corbyn’s paleo-left foreign-policy inclinations are precisely what Sanders has moved away from. That is, Sanders has updated his priors in light of the current geopolitical landscape. Corbyn has not. Let’s hope that he does.

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